“So, if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you.”
1 Peter 4:19
Suffering is hard, am I right? No one enjoys it. Who willingly wakes in the morning, jumps on their feet, and says, “I’m ready to suffer today”? I doubt any of us would. But the thing is, we live in a world that is the opposite of what God initially designed it to be with other people who live lives in opposition to what God desires. For those of us who do choose to live as obedient children, we stand out, and that in turn causes suffering (see verses 2-4).
This world doesn’t like Christians. They don’t like the “concept” of Christianity. If you are a believer, you know that Christianity isn’t a concept, or even a religion; it is a faith that changes us from the inside out. It’s a lifestyle that is meant to glorify our Savior, shining as lights in a darkened world.
Satan is called the “prince of the earth” and he hates God’s and God’s creation, us. There will be hardships and difficulties because of the curse on this imperfect word because of the fall in Genesis 3. But despite a broken world, trials, hardships, pain, suffering, and difficult situations, everyone can have hope. Why? Because we have Christ.
My life verse is found here in chapter 4. It was sort of a Russian roulette (or, more accurately, God’s divine revelation) that I came across it during a difficult time when I was 16. Time and time again I found myself in circumstances and situations simply beyond my control. They were challenging, oppressive and lonely, stirring up all sorts of emotions within me, causing depression, anger, and confusion.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised by the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (12-13)
Here’s the breakdown:
1) Peter addresses us as friends. He relates to us, sympathizes.
2) He writes, “do not be surprised…as though something strange were happening to you.” This goes back to John 16:33 when Christ confirms that we will experience trial and heartache in this world. It’s a guarantee that these times will happen.
3) Twice he expresses a variation of joy (rejoice, overjoyed), which brings us back to James 1:2 where it says, “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
4) The why: God’s glory is revealed. It is revealed through our heartbreaks, our lack and brokenness, our inability to be in-control and change things. It is revealed in His mercy and grace, healing and power. It is revealed when others see us suffer well in His name (see verse 16).
Heartaches happen. Opposition is a given. But even when these hardships arise, when I find myself struggling with my loneliness and depression, there is always hope. These circumstances and situations aren’t for nothing. They will be used by God for His glory and that is something to be joyful for.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.“ 2 Corinthians 4:17
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:16-18
Usually pain doesn’t come with obedience, but that’s human thought. Obedience to God means hard times in this world. Because when you are obedient to God, you are fighting for the kingdom. Something the Devil hates. Depression and loneliness are not of God, they are the tools of our enemy. However, I have consistently discovered that His Truth (the ultimate weapon/shield) always offers hope. I can find joy in Christ because He has suffered too (because of His obedience to the Father) and He is with me now, here, in my heartaches, my brokenness, my confusion, and He has defeated it all, which is something to rejoice over.
Sometimes our suffering is a result of being obedient to God in a world that celebrates the ultimate enemy. Sometimes suffering is a result of our sin. Other times it’s simply the result of a broken, fallen, imperfect world inhabited by imperfect and broken people. But, these times of suffering allow us to grow our faith, develop perseverance (James 1:3-4), and experience God in ways we never have before.
When we look to Him with gratitude and joy in our hearts, the difficult times will still come, but they will not rule in our hearts and minds with agony and dread. Rather, we can stand firm on His promises, full of hope and joy, knowing God already has the victory and as coheirs with Christ we share that victory.
Featured Photo by: Paige Robinson